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To examine the association between temperature and cause specific mortality, and to quantify the corresponding disease burden attributable to non-optimum ambient temperatures.Time series analysis.272 main cities in China.Non-accidental deaths in 272 cities covered by the Disease Surveillance Point System of China, from January 2013 to December 2015.Daily numbers of deaths from all non-accidental causes and main cardiorespiratory diseases. Potential effect modifiers included demographic, climatic, geographical, and socioeconomic characteristics. The analysis used distributed lag non-linear models to estimate city specific associations, and multivariate meta-regression analysis to obtain the effect estimates at national and regional levels.1 826 186 non-accidental deaths from total causes were recorded in the study period. Temperature and mortality consistently showed inversely J shaped associations. At the national average level, relative to the minimum mortality temperature (22.8°C, 79.1st centile), the mortality risk of extreme cold temperature (at −1.4°C, the 2.5th centile) lasted for more than 14 days, whereas the risk of extreme hot temperature (at 29.0°C, the 97.5th centile) appeared immediately and lasted for two to three days. 14.33% of non-accidental total mortality was attributable to non-optimum temperatures, of which moderate cold (ranging from −1.4 to 22.8°C), moderate heat (22.8 to 29.0°C), extreme cold (−6.4 to −1.4°C), and extreme heat (29.0 to 31.6°C) temperatures corresponded to attributable fractions of 10.49%, 2.08%, 1.14%, and 0.63%, respectively. The attributable fractions were 17.48% for overall cardiovascular disease, 18.76% for coronary heart disease, 16.11% for overall stroke, 14.09% for ischaemic stroke, 18.10% for haemorrhagic stroke, 10.57% for overall respiratory disease, and 12.57% for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. The mortality risk and burden were more prominent in the temperate monsoon and subtropical monsoon climatic zones, in specific subgroups (female sex, age ≥75 years, and ≤9 years spent in education), and in cities characterised by higher urbanisations rates and shorter durations of central heating.This nationwide study provides a comprehensive picture of the non-linear associations between ambient temperature and mortality from all natural causes and main cardiorespiratory diseases, as well as the corresponding disease burden that is mainly attributable to moderate cold temperatures in China. The findings on vulnerability characteristics can help improve clinical and public health practices to reduce disease burden associated with current and future abnormal weather.